Airlines, airports turning to mobile devices

Airlines, airports turning to mobile devices
Singapore Airlines presents KrisWorld, the most advanced inflight entertainment system in the world.

ON SINGAPORE Airlines (SIA) flights, cabin crew now carry mobile tablets.

And at Changi Airport, there are plans to test a new check-in system. Instead of being tied to counters, staff will carry tablets which can scan passports, and a hand-held printer that issues boarding passes.

The project was initiated by aviation technology firm Sita with support from Tigerair and ground-handler Sats.

Sats is also involved in other initiatives, including a test at baggage claim belts which allows passengers to report missing luggage on the spot to roving staff with hand-held tablets.

"This is to enhance efficiency and productivity as well as improve customer service," a spokesman said.

As airports become more crowded, workers harder to find, and customers more demanding, airlines and airports are turning to technology for solutions.

The in-flight tablets, which SIA launched on Feb 11, are mainly used to keep crew updated on flight information and other technical details.

But the plan is to eventually use the tablets "to enable our crew to offer a more personalised customer experience and meet our customers' evolving travel needs", said senior vice-president of cabin crew Marvin Tan.

For instance, if a customer has a special meal preference or wants to have the meal at a specific time, the information can be keyed into the system.

A recent survey by Sita and Airports Council International - a trade body representing major airports - found that between 2010 and 2012, airports have been spending more on information technology.

The amount spent jumped by 16.8 per cent, compared to a 2.4 per cent jump in overall revenues for the same period.

The trend is expected to continue, Sita's Asia-Pacific president, Mr Ilya Gutlin, told The Straits Times at an industry conference here last week. The push comes from the wide use of mobile technology, he said.

The more connected travellers are, the more they expect to simplify their journeys through the technology, including having more self-service options.

Changi's future Terminal 4 will, for instance, rely heavily on do-it-yourself options when it opens in 2017.

As travellers become more demanding, they also expect to be constantly updated when flight timings and schedules are tweaked, said Mr Nicholas Key, commercial director of London-based firm 15below, which works with airlines to provide passenger alert systems.

Tigerair chief operating officer Ho Yuen Sang, pointing to his airline's Facebook and Twitter sites, said: "We recognise the importance of customer engagement and have increased the number of feedback channels."

A spokesman for long-haul budget carrier, Scoot, said: "For such communication to work effectively, it is imperative that travellers provide us with accurate contact details, such as a working e-mail address and mobile number."

This article was first published on Feb 21, 2015.
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